Spotters tracked down

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Office of the Evening Post and Chronicle, October 1951.

THE Borough juvenile courtroom was packed; standing room only. Forty anxious parents and 60 frightened boys waited in an uneasy hush. None had ever been here before. What would happen to them? How would they be punished?

They were ordered to stand while the magistrates entered.

The children were accused of trespassing on the railway.

Inspector Browning of the Railway Police began proceedings by saying the railway authority had no objection to train spotters provided they used the cattle dock, approached from Greyfriars Road, or St James’s Bridge or, to a limited extent, they could stand on the station platform.

But most of the boys before the court had been on Balby St James’s Bridge sandbank where there was a 30ft drop to the main line. One boy had fallen down the bank and required first-aid. Electric cables had been uncovered and jumped on, and sand knocked onto the line. Engineers were frequently called to clear the lines and points.

“This case is brought not from malice but to put a stop to what is happening; it is brought in the boys’ own interest. You will remember that during the last two years we have had to major rail disasters near here; we don’t want a third.”

They all pleaded guilty. There wasn’t much to be said in mitigation. The magistrates retired and were not absent long. All accused were found guilty and fined 15s each.

As I watched I couldn’t help thinking that, 10 years ago, I might have been one of the boys; Balby Bridge really was the best vantage point.

The truth is that the Railway Authority have been very patient with train spotters over many years. It was inevitable that the time had come when the law had to be seen in action – and the case widely publicised.

Afterwards the stationmaster told us that spotters, some of whom come from towns miles away, frequently caused annoyance to passengers on the station. “They run about and scream and look for train numbers in some sort of competition. We have no wish to quell their enthusiasm but we do wish they were better behaved.”

As an old spotter, I have to say spotting from the cattle dock is useless; there is always a row of open-sided wagons along this stretch, some full of cattle mooing and pooing, others vacant and stinking filthy. The wagons are shunted to and fro by the same old tank engine whose number no self-respecting spotter would wish to have.

n We are in the midst of campaigning for another general election. Columns and columns churn out the same old political stuff. In a nutshell it is: “Do you wish for more nationalisation? Then vote Labour. If not, vote Conservative.” Doncaster has Tony Barber, Con, versus the sitting member Ray Gunter, Lab. Both are very touchy about heckling, and each accuses the other of bringing in organised parties of professional hecklers.

Mr Gunter’s majority was 878 last time; this time there will be 1,583 more names on the electoral list. It’s a straight fight.

n Mr Cutriss of the Doncaster Scientific Society has found a pear-shaped electric light bulb which was one of the first made commercially in England by its inventor Mr Edison. It was hidden away in a cupboard. It had been given by Edison to Mr Cutriss’s father in1870 and is rather smaller than the bulbs we know today.

Mr Cutriss has been in touch with the London firm of Ediswan, who keep a bulb museum containing original inventions and he has been told his bulb is a missing link in their collection.

Another Edison relic treasured by Mr Cutriss is the first Recordograph brought into this country. It was made by his father when he was working with Edison in New York.

Using this system sounds are recorded by a needle running over a lead sheet. As he has only one blank, which is fragile, our man dare not try to record on it – and neither dare he switch on the light bulb.

n Rovers say they are willing to let Tommy Martin, their brilliant Scottish inside forward, go to Leicester City and the fee has been agreed. But the player refuses the opportunity. Many consider he is in line for an international cap. Perhaps he wants to join a club in the First Division.

n Doncaster Council continue to pursue their claim that the airport should be the centre of aviation in this part of the country, but all to no avail. Readers must be tired of hearing about it. BEA have decided there is not sufficient potential to justify them taking it over and the battle has reached stalemate. It remains under the control of the Air Ministry. So what is to become of our lovely field between Belle Vue and Bessacarr?

n The four Doncaster holidaymakers whose bodies were found in the aft cabin of Merry Wind on the Norfolk Broads all died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A baby boy who was in a forward cabin survived. A faulty heater and lack of ventilation caused the tragedy. Fourteen witnesses were called to give evidence at the inquest in Lowestoft so the subject got a thorough investigation. Verdict: Misadventure.

n Work on the power station at Crimpsall has almost come to a halt because of the nationwide shortage of steel. Already 95 men have been laid off. They have used 2,000 tons of girders; another 1,000 tons are needed for the foundations of the main building.

n Miss Eleanor Robinson of Springwell Lane has retired after 34 years as a conductress with Doncaster Corporation Transport Dept. She says after 12 years as a domestic she decided the new electric trams offered a much more interesting life. She said “I enjoyed every minute. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

n Although it is only October the night fogs are getting worse; much more impenetrable than in previous years. When the Fire Brigade was called to a gas lamp, which had been knocked over by a car and was blazing like a torch members of the crew had to run in front of the engine to guide it. It took six minutes to travel three quarters of a mile to the lamp at the junction of Sandringham Road and Armthorpe Road. There were at least three other accidents on local roads during fog at that time. When the fog is really thick travel is almost impossible at junctions such as the racecourse roundabout and Sandford Road-Balby Road.

n Rossington and Denaby housewives, whose homes are all but wired up for electricity, are buying labour-saving gadgets for the Big Switch On. First item for most will be a vacuum cleaner, a Goblin for preference perhaps. But when, ask the housewives, will we get the electric? Answer comes there none.

Rossington miners are threatening to strike if it doesn’t happen soon.

The Electricity Board say they have been restricted by capital expenditure and they are unable to put in the distribution mains. This cuts no ice in 2,800 households where old-fashioned oil and gas continue to lighten their darkness.

n Two human rescue stories this week. First, that of the Thorne plumber who saved two women from their blazing flat. It all started when a pile of fireworks left in a corner of a room caught fire. Soon a wardrobe and chest in a bedroom were ablaze, the flames leaping to the ceiling and blocking the stairway. Our hero rushed to the back of the premises, grabbed a ladder and encouraged the two women to safety by crossing the roof of an outbuilding. He then lowered them on to a packing case from which they reached the ground.

The second story is more remarkable. Mr John Wood of Thorne was fishing a deep pool at Sandtoft when he saw a three-year-old child had fallen in. Being a non-swimmer, and facing a pool too deep to wade across he cast his hook hoping to catch the child’s clothing. The first cast missed. The second was a brilliant success. “Landing” the boy, he applied artificial respiration and the lucky youngster was none the worse for his adventure.